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Bison players react to head coach's departure

FARGO – The North Dakota State men’s basketball players didn’t sit around on Sunday and mope about losing their head basketball coach. The team’s lone returning senior called a players-only meeting.

Guard Lawrence Alexander said the team is in support of Saul Phillips taking the head coaching position at Ohio University on Saturday night and offseason conditioning will begin today as scheduled.

“We all agreed to stay no matter what the situation is,” Alexander said. “We have a good core of guys going on here right now and everybody is going to stay regardless. We just have to stick together and everything will work itself out.”

Alexander and forward Kory Brown are the two returning starters. Also coming back next year are center Chris Kading, guard Carlin Dupree, forward Dexter Werner, forward Brett VandenBergh, guard A.J. Jacobson and guard Zach Checkal.

“We’re not worried about anyone leaving,” Brown said. “Right now we’re together as a group and we’re going to push each other.”

NDSU lost six seniors from this year’s team that won a Summit League title and a second round game in the NCAA tournament. The Bison signed four incoming freshmen to letters of intent – guards Jon Sobaski from Prior Lake, Minn. and Paul Miller from Kettle Moraine High (Wis.) and teammates Jake Showalter and Evan Wesenberg from Germantown, Wis. – and have two scholarships yet to offer if the next head coach so chooses.

Phillips’ leaving does not change the letter of intent commitment.

“Now it’s how do we react to this situation,” Brown said. “All we have to do is play basketball and get ourselves ready as a team for the upcoming season. We know that we probably won’t see (Phillips) too much anymore but we joked that if we end up seeing him on the court I hope that he’s ready for a whoopin’.”

Alexander described Phillips as like another father figure to him, but he said the players all agreed taking the Ohio job was in his best interest. He’s expected to sign a five-year contract worth $550,000 annually. He was making $175,000 at NDSU.

“He deserved the job,” Alexander said.

Both Alexander and Brown said they would be supportive if associate head coach Dave Richman gets promoted to head coach. Richman said Sunday that he plans on applying for the position.

“I think it would be a great opportunity for Dave,” Alexander said. “If he does get it, our game plan would be the same as Sauls. Dave wouldn’t change much.”

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.